“Everything you do in life will be insignificant. But it is very important that you do it anyways.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The first time I heard that quote, I honestly thought, “what the f*ck!?”
How could anybody say that the things we do are insignificant?
So I dismissed the quote…and judged Gandhi hard to be honest.
Then, almost a decade later, I heard it again. Except this time I heard it in my own thoughts. Reason being: its meaning finally dawned on me… And its meaning is incredibly profound.
Stop Taking Things So Seriously
Have you ever found yourself up at night because a “major life decision” is stressing you out?
Have you ever tried to make a scenario-based decision “just in case” that scenario comes up in the future?
Have you ever been so unsure of what to do, that you asked for a million opinions and overwhelmed yourself with “what if scenarios”?
I’m sure you’ve been there at least once in your life. I know I have, multiple times …
I’ve always wondered why us humans are able to turn small decisions into major life crises.
So I did some research and as I should’ve suspected, it’s all about the brain. Here’s what goes on:
When a fork in the road comes up in life, you want to make the right choice. And the possibility of making the wrong decision scares us! So we start to get anxious, “OMG what the f*** should I do?”
Answering that question for yourself involves the work of the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). But when anxiety is present, “the general spontaneous activity of PFC neurons is suppressed, specifically weakening the encoding of rules by the dorsomedial PFC neurons. This subgroup of neurons is specifically coded for making a choice based on relevant rules.”
It used to be assumed that anxiety over-engages the entire brain. But then a 2016 study led by Bita Moghaddam, PhD. of the University of Pittsburgh found that “anxiety disengages brain cells in a highly specialized manner.” Therefore leading to poor decision making.
So next time you’re faced with a decision that makes you anxious, remember that no matter your choice, you will ALWAYS learn and grow. You’ll just learn and grow in a different way.
And if youre worried about making the wrong decision, please remember it’s okay – you can make all the wrong decisions you want. In fact, when it comes to major life decisions like career and education, why not make the “wrong decision”? You’ll only learn better about what you want for yourself.
And for the love of all things, please do not do something simply because you think others will be impressed by it at the next dinner party.🤦♀️
But if you do get anxious about what other people might think of you (one of my biggest hurdles), then try these tips:
1) Be ok with people not liking you.
I find we have this fear of not being liked, whether it’s by most people or just a few. But think about it, why should everyone like you? And if others want to judge you for your decisions, that really isn’t your problem.
If you can start not caring about whether people “like you”, you will feel free and happy to make whatever decision you want. It’s really not that serious…
2) Don’t “Noun” Anxiety so you Can Control Anxiety
What is the difference between the following sentences?
A. “My anxiety is acting up”
B. “I feel anxious right now”
Well in sentence A, the term “anxiety” is a noun; and more importantly, by saying “my anxiety”, it is an entity that you are taking ownership of.
By making an entity out of “anxiety”, you’re giving it power. As if it’s something you need to work against.
Now on the contrary, sentence B uses the word “anxious” which is an adjective (it describes your feelings, which is a noun). By NOT noun-ing “anxiousness”, you are NOT making it a big scary entity. Rather, you are recognizing it as something that comes and goes (like happiness, sadness, and any other emotion).
Using that tip can ease your anxiousness when anticipating judgment from other people.
So PLEASE remember…
… next time you’re faced with an anxiety-inducing scenario, your choices will likely not make or break you – they just aren’t that significant. No one is keeping score of your life choices, so there’s no benefit to taking life too seriously.
You ARE Multitudes
You may be unsure about taking an action in life that involves some type of commitment (whether that be signing up for a sport or getting a new job). You will likely see this “commitment” as something that gives you identity (ex. I AM a soccer player, or I AM a lawyer). Describing yourself using those labels makes you feel good because it gives you a sense of belonging to a group.
So when something comes up in life and we can no longer take on that commitment, as a result we feel like we lose our identity. “Who am I if I’m not a soccer player?” “What is the purpose of my career if I am no longer a lawyer?”
It feels like somebody took a slice out of your identity pie, and the only way to get that slice back is by making the committment again.
But here’s the thing… you are not “a soccer player” nor are you “a lawyer”. In fact, you are multitudes. The only “thing” you are is a human being, everything else – all those identities – are just things that you do.
And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that who you are is much more important than what you “do”.
Stop thinking the things you don’t do are somehow a lost piece of who you are. And stop thinking the things you do DO are somehow a part of your being.
You can do and want different things for yourself in different stages of life. And you can change your mind! You can make 1 decision and then do something different later! Who honestly cares if you want to work as a lawyer for 10 years then a teacher for 20? Nobody comes to you at the end of your life to scold you about your choices.
Here’s a great example of the identity pie crisis:
Sally is a soccer player. She’s played her entire life and loves the game. However, Sally needs to decide about signing up for the indoor season; her priorities have changed and she is not sure she’ll have time for weekly soccer games.
She thinks her options are this:
(1) don’t sign-up = lose my identity as a soccer player
(2) sign-up for the indoor season = be overwhelmed BUT keep my identity.
BUT really, her options look like this:
(1) don’t sign up = continue being a human who plays soccer when she has time
(2) sign-up = continue being a human who plays soccer when she has time
See what just happened? Sally realized her decision to play soccer was not that significant; her existence alone is significant.
It’s Just Life
What’s the worst that could happen when you make a decision?
Usually, the worst case scenario will not ruin the rest of your life. Usually, if you make a decision and you don’t like the outcome, you do something else.
Don’t panic, there’s no need to get anxious, and you can stop worrying… it’s just life. And we only get one!
No matter how big or small, everything we do or don’t do shapes us into the people we are today. Each and every decision is a learning experience; and by learning we can make better decisions in the future.
So if you only remember one thing from this blog, let it be this:
Don’t take life too seriously, you only get one shot at it so make it meaningful to YOU.
So, although the things you do are insignificant… it is very important that you do them anyways because you will ALWAYS learn from them.
As always, I hope you have a happy Monday, and don’t forget to make this the #YearOfYou ❤✌
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*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional advice.